Students Learn the Value of Shopping Local

SESSER, Ill.- Every time you grab lunch at a local café, buy a new dress from a neighborhood boutique or shop at that vintage record store around the corner, you are making a direct impact on the local community. While shoppers may be scouring ads and flyers to determine their strategy for Black Friday, there is a lesser known holiday that can make a difference right where you live.

Established by American Express in the midst of the recession in 2010, Small Business Saturday has been sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to encourage people to shop small and purchase locally. According to the 2018 Small Business Economic Impact Study, for every dollar spent at a small business, approximately 67 cents stays in the local community.  

University of Illinois Extension is instilling the importance of local shopping with the youngest cohort of consumers: elementary school students. Created by Community and Economic Development Extension Specialist Susan Odum, the Cha-Ching! Into the Community Chest is a simulated exercise that teaches the importance of shopping local while encouraging entrepreneurial thinking in a fun, interactive way.

The program includes a “buy local” board game that introduces the students to the concept of shopping local so they have a better understanding of the community services that are supported through local dollars. The game demonstrates how spending money in the local economy can lead to activities and initiatives that would interest them such as new parks or special events in the town they live in.

Students in Mrs. Fennes and Mrs. Bullock's fifth grade classes at Sesser-Valier Elementary School had the opportunity to play this fun game just before Thanksgiving break. They worked as teams to identify choices that would allow them to “move ahead” with smart purchases that put money into the community chest as they tried to avoid pitfalls that would cause them to “slide back” when they did not support the local economy.

Drew Kelly, small business owner and president of the Sesser Chamber of Commerce, served as the local community participant for the program. Kelly stated, “It’s a great program. It gets the kids excited and makes them aware of what their spending can do for the local community.”

Students ended the program with some entrepreneurial thinking as they brainstormed business ideas they would like to see incorporated into the local community. They shared these ideas with special guest, Mayor Jason Ashmore.  He reiterated what the students had learned during the program: when we shop local, we are able to better our community.

In the 2018-2019 school year, Odum and University of Illinois Extension youth program coordinators piloted the new program in elementary classrooms throughout southern Illinois. The program, aimed at youth in fourth and fifth grades, is facilitated by University of Illinois Extension staff with support of the classroom teacher and local community advocates. Educators interested in hosting a Cha-Ching! Into the Community Chest session at their schools can contact Susan Odum at (618) 993-3304.   

News Source: Susan Odum, (618) 993-3304,          

News Writer: Heather Willis, (618) 357-2126,